The team behind Mission Chinese brings flavors from a world away right up the block to their new restaurant, Mission Cantina. Zagat editor Kelly Dobkin filed the following report for NY1.
Mission Cantina is the second NYC restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Danny Bowien, and explores the flavors of Mexican with a few unexpected twists.
Q: Tell me about what made you want to explore Mexican flavors with this restaurant.
Bowien: I didn't grow up around real Mexican food. I grew up in Oklahoma, so there was a lot of Tex-Mex, I would eat a lot of Tex-Mex growing up. We had originally intended on being kind of a Californian Mexican restaurant. We traveled to Mexico City, and that kind of changed everything. We tasted a lot of food there and experienced a lot of things that had a huge impact on the product here.
The space is located on the corner of Stanton and Orchard, just up the street from Bowien's acclaimed Mission Chinese, which is currently closed for renovations.
Q: Did you guys intend to be down the street from Mission Chinese?
Bowien: It's a corner location, which I feel is very important. It's very open. You can see the street. The kitchen's in the dining room, basically. We didn't really look anywhere else.
The menu offers a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine but also playfully combines those flavors with a variety of Asian influences.
"Asian food is a little bit different because a lot of Chinese food, for instance, relies heavily on soy sauce and other prepared products," Bowien says. "The cool thing here, there's layers of clean flavor. So if you get a tortilla with some really nice pork and some really acidic bright salsa, it's almost like sushi. You can taste those three layers."
"When people come in we want them to be able to share the food," he added. "The easiest thing to share is something that's larger. Rotisserie chicken is something that we saw a lot in Mexico, but it was really basic. We wanted to kind of reverse engineer that and make it something that's really special. We brine it first, and we stuff it with rice and raisins, and pecans and chorizo."